Having to repair damage to a rental property is a concern of every landlord. The cost of damage goes beyond restoring the unit — it also means longer vacancies while the property is being repaired.
These three steps can help to minimize losses from damage, and keep a property occupied.
Set a Good Example
Don’t show a property to prospective renters until it is in prime condition. This helps to reduce damages in two ways. First, the tenant can see firsthand just how good the property can look, and it sets the bar for how the property must be maintained.
Also, a tidy, well-kept property attracts the best tenants — the ones who are the least likely to cause damage in the first place.
Don’t ignore the outside. The view from the curb makes the first impression.
Develop a Tenant Orientation Program
A tenant orientation program will minimize the risk of damage by making it clear what the tenant needs to do to maintain the property.
At the orientation, the tenant and landlord discuss mutual responsibilities for items like:
Transfer of utilities, ensuring that the property is not without heat or water;
Lawn maintenance including watering;
General maintenance such as changing furnace filters or shoveling snow;
The proper use of appliances;
Acceptable activities at the rental;
Request repairs; and
How to contact the landlord.
Make certain the tenant understands the need to call the landlord at the first sign of a problem. Follow up promptly and don’t make the tenant feel bad for reporting the issue.
A face-to-face meeting with the tenant is the best way to conduct an orientation. In addition, some landlords place orientation information on their website for easy reference, or record a short video for the tenant to view.
Don’t Rely on the Security Deposit
A landlord should collect the largest allowable security deposit from each tenant — and most do.
But a problem arises when a landlord places too much stock on the deposit. They may become complacent, believing that they are adequately protected from income loss.
Taking deposit deductions is not only an accounting hassle, placing the landlord at risk of a legal dispute, but it means having to take the time to restore the unit before the next tenant moves in. Vacancies cause further income loss. Oftentimes, the deposit is not enough to cover all of the losses, and the landlord must pursue the tenant in collections, which could take months.
The better philosophy is to aim for a full return of the tenant’s deposit. Pretend that the deposit is not there, so the focus remains on making the tenant keep the property in good shape.
Preserve the deposit as an incentive for the tenant. Once the tenant thinks they will never get the deposit back, the motivation is lost and they will do little or nothing to care for the property.
Let tenants know you want to be able to give them back the full deposit, because that signals a successful tenancy. Reward good conduct, and point out bad conduct routinely throughout the lease.
Staying involved and inspecting the property routinely will go far towards getting the property back in good condition, and on time for the next tenant.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.